summer 2011

summer 2011

Paul and I, all 16 kids and Ashley, Benjamin's wife...Christmas 2012

Paul and I, all 16 kids and Ashley, Benjamin's wife...Christmas 2012

Thursday, September 28, 2023

critters and creatures....

Yesterday I wrote about the tarantulas, scorpions, and snakes one could encounter here in the desert.  Marilyn has been here countless times and hasn't had any show up.  The thought, the consciousness that an eight-legged hairy being too big to squash, or something slithery and coiled, or...a scorpion, which to my north-eastern mind seems almost ridiculous, untrue, made up, COULD be in the yard (or the corner of the bathroom!  Or on my extra pillow when I pick it up after dropping it off the bed in the night!)...just the knowledge that it's possible, makes me a little wary.  (Remember the movie Annie, with Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan: Now, have I ever spanked any of ya?  Annie:  No, but you've threatened, and that's worse.)

Anyway.  Yesterday we didn't go on any adventures, we had two nice outside swimming sessions, the afternoon swim...ahh, 102 degrees and nice cool pool water, so refreshing.  I got out to bake in the sun for a few minutes to dry off, Camille was still floating around...when she abruptly got up and marched out of the pool...there's a lizard in there, swimming towards me!  It's interesting how one person gets freaked out, so the other person HAS to be calm-cool-collected, and I'm not the very best candidate for that.  But.  I'll just get the skimmer, I said, and scoop it out.  It was struggling in the water, but I was hesitant, because if I got in there, it might just swim towards me.  I wasn't afraid it would hurt me, but rather that I'd hurt myself by trying to get away from it ha.  In any case, I got in and scooped it up with the leaf skimmer...then took it over to the edge of the patio blocks and dumped it out.

I took a pic using my Seek ap, I usually use it to identify plants.  It's a Whiptail Lizard, and it can run 17 mph!  It's not poisonous, but can bite.  (I didn't tell Cam that).  We were done being outside at that point, so in to the nice cool lizard-free house we went...I checked a bit later, and it was gone...we questioned why I hadn't dumped that net over the fence, but I wasn't keen on walking across the yard carrying the net, because if it crawled out and went up my arm or down my suit, it might have been heart attack time.  
Yes, I do make a big deal about everything.  :)

Are we all excited to go back out into the pool?  One of us has more hesitancy than the other, I told her the chances of that happening again...she said don't say it.    She's not superstitious, just a LITTLE stitious, ha.  

Anyway.  I've enjoyed this:

Imagine just pushing a button and voila, a double espresso!  You have to fill the water tank, put the coffee beans in it, empty the grounds...but not every time, just when the indicator tells you to.  You can make other things too, but I like my Americanos.  
Camille's dessert from last night.  I had a sugar free Greek yogurt with some strawberries, and some chocolate.  Our dinner:  bacon and eggs, and leftover meatballs.  Meatballs are always better the next day, or two.  

Nothing exciting is happening here, so bye for now...and let's hope nothing exciting happens, right?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

starting route to...

 ...Target.  Yeah, we're boring like that.  Yesterday, we soaked up the sun and went in the pool for a while, you cannot stay in this sun for too long.  Paul is working from here, so when I say "we", I mean Camille and I.  (He takes breaks and throws the ball for the pups, and gets in the pool after a quick run, yes he still runs in the heat)(He takes the dogs on a mile walk/run in the morning, too).

Into the cool AC of the house for a cold drink and some schoolwork for Camille as I read Atonement, and we plotted the rest of the day.  Honest disclosure:  I was hesitant to drive to Target, because it's getting on a highway, and lots of traffic.  I didn't want to let that stop me, especially because Cam wanted to go.  So off we went, in the heat of the day.  Backing out of the garage was easier this time, and we got there with no issues.  

I saw these sweaters in the little girls's section, and suggested Cam try one on...she got the cream colored one, it was $14, not bad for a sweater these days.
I tried on a bathing suit, it was a NO.  We wandered and meandered, she found a pink tank top, a bathing suit top, and we got some cajun snack mix and seltzer.   I talked to Sonja on the phone while we shopped, she was heading in to work the night shift.  

We decided not to go to Marshall's, as it was after three and we wanted to go in the pool again.  Then a strange thing happened:  we spotted a Baskin Robbins.  I asked Camille if she had ever gone there.  She had not.  hmmm.  The car seemed drawn to it, next thing we knew, we were parked there and going in.  My review:  pricey, but really yummy.  I wanted the pumpkin pie, but the girl working there said customers have been disappointed with it, and offered a sample.  It was way way too sweet.  So I chose coconut nut, which was a many frozen nuts on my poor old molars...tasted good, but not outstanding.  The second scoop, shh yes, we each got two scoops...was German chocolate, with the coconut and caramel and nuts...oh dear, it was delicious.  Sickeningly sweet though.  I could have had one quarter of it and been happy.  The nice girl there gave us humungous scoops.  The cone is the best part though, and I thought of dumping some of the ice cream, but I just ate it all.  ugh.  

Then I remembered I forgot to get something in Target that Paul had asked for, so we went back in.  This time we knew we were going straight home afterwards, so we got popsicles.  Cam's idea, popsicles in the pool, she's brilliant.

Camille took these as we were driving.  The phone pics just don't capture the enormity and the awesomeness of the desert.  It's not beautiful, to me, but it is amazing.  It's so different from our normal Target commute!  

The chai cake with brown sugar buttercream...I have stayed out of it since the night we made's too good though.

Anyway, we went back out in the pool until the backyard shaded over, then it was time to make dinner.  I had marinated that $1.97 a pound London Broil, a lot of good that did ha.  I seared it in the iron frying pan, then left it in there with the top on for a bit, it was tasty but mostly tough, some bites were really good.  We also had oven roasted potato chunks and Brussel sprouts.  (I tossed the potatoes in garlic and olive oil, some with Frank's Hot sauce too, those were really good!)

It's so beautiful in the morning when the sun starts to rise.  I took the pic from in the house though, because there could be snakes out there...or poison toads or scorpions, or a tarantula.  I haven't seen any of those, but the boys had to call someone to remove a snake, and have seen both the toads and scorpions (and they've only lived here for a little over a year).  I know there are tarantulas because when I was looking up scorpions (they have night time scorpion hunting as a fun past time at some of the parks!), there was an actual tarantula map.    Nope, I was not looking to see if they are here on this road, don't want to know.  Burn the house down.  Creatures, ugh.  So no wandering into the back yard in the dark.  As it is, we have to go out first and check for snakes before we let the dogs out.  

It is rather lovely here.  I'm enjoying the time with Camille, the time with Paul, it's so weird to be a family of three ha.  The boys are gone for another week, so it's very quiet here.  We are not bored though.  The pool takes care of that!  

Have a really nice day!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

cooking AND baking...

 We ventured out by ourselves, Miss Camille and I, in Aaron's nice car.  Backing out of the garage trying to go straight and not ding Riley's nice car, not really very difficult but sort of stressful.  We didn't go far, just to the Safeway.  They had London Broil for $1.97 a pound, and burger for $2.97.  We decided to get the ingredients to make meatballs, and this chai cake with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting.  Camille is a baker, and who wouldn't want to bake in this nice kitchen?

There was a Starbucks in this Safeway, so we got our iced Americanos, and were quite happy.  Home...well, home AWAY from home...and that London Broil was put in a marinade of lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and some seasonings.  We made the cake, then the meatballs...

It's very clear that I do not know how to cook for three people.  Also, I have discovered that smaller quantities of meatballs are better when made in a frying pan, versus the oven.  (I consider this a "smaller quantity".  My normal batch uses five pounds of ground beef, two baking pans in the oven).  I like them with a thick crust on the outside from browning in the fat.  I added a few chopped tomatoes to caramelize, then the sauce.  I skipped the pasta, but Paul and Camille had some.  We had some amazing salads with it, then a slice of cake.  I usually just skip the desserts, but here in the desert, I've had a few.  

I'll take a pic of the cake later, it's nothing amazing to look at, but oh dear!  It's a recipe from Julie Marie Eats, you can google her recipe.  We halved the recipe and made a one layer cake, which is still too much. Cam was dubious of my halving suggestion, would it still work?  Yes, because the full two layer called for four eggs, an even amount.  Everything else you can halve easily.  The half frosting recipe was plenty too. We sprinkled cinnamon on top, and oh what a luscious creation.

We were out in the pool and in the sun for about an hour and a half yesterday.  I am so enjoying the pool, getting in there and moving.  We have been watching an episode of Black Mirror each afternoon, then I'm reading and doing crossword puzzles and making coffee and vacuuming the couch with the nice vacuum.  (Cheryl, Aaron might just have more vacuum cleaners than you do!).  

We take the dogs out at least every hour, throw the ball a few times, makes them happy.  They seem to be adjusted to us now.  The big Lab sleeps with Camille, and the other two have their little beds in our room, and are good little sleepers.  Paul takes them all on their sunrise walk, then they eat their chow, and are all tired and content.  

This fine day, Camille and I will be heading in the other direction, out to where there are several stores.  I'm not big on driving in new places, especially when it's a really nice car (it's a Jaguar!).  Of course I'll be careful, Careful is my middle name, but what if someone else dings it?  Or what if I'm not sure which lane I'm supposed to be turning in to?  All these other drivers seem so certain, so sure, of where they are going.

Banjo, in my face.  She's a cutie.  She rarely runs out of steam, she's a direct descendent of the Energizer Bunny.  You can't even look at the slider doors into the back yard without her starting in.  She yips and yaps and full on barks.  If you make the mistake of stepping outside withOUT a ball in your hand, she'll bark you right back in to grab one from the bin by the door.  She almost always gets the ball when you throw it.  Sometimes Lilly the Lab gets it, but mostly Banjo.  Pretzel never catches the ball, her job is to herd Lilly.  She keeps a good eye on her, and of course no one ever trained her to do this, she just assigned herself to be the boss of Lilly.  

So I'm not actually busy here in the desert, but our days fill up.  As much as I miss my kids and grandkids back home, I'm totally enjoying the time with Paul, and with Camille.  (Tennyson saw the picture of the donkey, then I talked to him on the phone, and he wanted me to bring him there to see the donkey.  Oh, how I wish I could just buy them tickets and they could come swim with me...). 

Here are a few pics...

Just press a button, and a double Americano...

Ah well, have a really good day!

Sunday, September 24, 2023


 ...the desert sun is brutal.  It's dry here, and when there's breeze, you get out of the pool and wow, chilly, when it's 94 degrees!  It's to be hotter today, 99, and 103 on Tuesday and Wednesday.  We've avoided sunburns so far, by swimming in the late afternoon.  

Paul takes the dogs out for their early morning jog, it settles them for a while.  He came upon a donkey this morning, a donkey that was no longer rambling about, waiting to be buzzard brekky.  Donkey's on the left of the cactus.  

The sunrise here is lovely.
Paul with the three pups...

We haven't done much here yet, as it's so hot to be out and about.  We want to go to Pleasant Lake today, we'll see. Yesterday we went to Fry's, a nice big grocery store, and you know what a nerd I am about grocery stores.  It was overstimulating.  My head was spinning.  We bought some 93% burger for only $3.50 a pound, and grilled the best burgers for dinner.  :)

Camille and I think it's like playing house, staying here.  It's like a Black Mirror house.  Google, close the blinds.  Google:  closing eleven blinds, and down go the blinds.  It's a huge house, with four bathrooms and an entire extra living room upstairs on the landing.  The kitchen is fantastic.  The oven had a recent software update, and it's also a functioning air fryer.  Camille and I tested it out yesterday with some frozen chicken fillets, it worked beautifully.  Riley is an amazing cook, so he has all the gadgets and seasonings too.  The floor vac comes on and cleans up all the dog hair, and empties into it's docking station.  The cleaning closet is full of vacuum cleaners, for other tasks.  

So we're enjoying our stay here in the desert, but I am missing the kids back home...

Friday, September 22, 2023


 ...some people hate to fly, hate to travel.  Some love it.  Guess what? I love AND hate it!  I love the adventure, seeing all the different people and different places.  Hate:  walking long distances in a hurry, crowds, rules...the whole TSA debacle, ugh.  This fine morning, Paul had checked us in to our flights, but PreCheck didn't show up on my boarding pass.  (PreCheck itself is a huge-0 scam:  you pay $85 for five years of walking through security without taking off your shoes, jackets, sweaters,  or removing the liquids from your bags.).   One text to Riley, he added my known traveler number, and voila, I was all set.  

It sounds whiny, but you know, I have had a few bad experiences going through security.  I am just a Pat-Down magnet.  One of those pat down sessions, which I have written about before, was out and out abusive, I was totally humiliated.  The screen lit up in a very private place, that seemed to give that woman free license to lift my dress up, right over my round tummy, and pat down my...private place.  I did have leggings on, but I am old, and I am chubby, I do not wear leggings as pants.  This woman lifted my dress right up, right in front of the whole world of tired travelers, there was an officer just standing there watching.  I burst into tears, and protested the whole time.  She simply threatened, "A private screening can be arranged."  Um, if you do this to me in public, what would you do in private?  Oh dear.  

So going through security is always nerve-wracking for me.  It's better with PreCheck, but still, all the hurry hurry hurry, take this off, leave that in a container, put this here, don't lose your phone...sometimes even in PreCheck, they demand my needs to be "swiped", apparently.  Wiped down, tested for...something?  I don't mean to be dramatic, lots of these people are perfectly nice, but I do believe that the very nature of the job attracts some questionable characters, or does the nature of the job with it's small taste of power turn very nice people into unsavory characters?  hmm.

It's not like you can stand there and stomp your feet and ask to speak to the manager.  You don't like it, you don't fly.

But once we clear security, we get to wait for our flight, then file onto the plane, and relax in the soft comfy seat.  Not really, we fly economy.  At least I can buckle the seatbelt these days.    Camille and I have some healthy snacks packed, and she's bringing herself one of these:

We had eight ripe bananas...some have mini chocolate chips, not the ones Camille will choose.
And, one loaf of banana bread...

Cousins:  Denzel Alexander and Maeve Louise

 Lydia Eleanor with baby brother Denzel,  cousin Grant Thomas with baby sister Maeve.

This has been a busy day, but not really.  It took me all the live-long day to pack.  I had to wash clothes, then hmm, I should do a load of towels.  I washed the crock pot from last night's chicken stew, and the brownie pan.  I touched up my roots, shh.  

Then Camille, bless her heart, painted my toe nails for me.  

Just realized I never finished this post...oops.  

here in the desert with dessert...


Ahh, the sun coming up...not too warm yet this fine morning.  I woke up at four, when the robot-vac started its morning rounds.  It was seven back home, so I decided to just stay up.  Decided.  ha.  As IF I could just go back to sleep, one of the perks of getting older, you don't sleep like a teenager anymore.  I did sleep well, and that's something I do not take for granted.
The pups were up with the birds anyway.  
Banjo catching the ball.
Last evening, we had dessert in the desert.  We shared them all.  I want to say it made me feel ill and I'll never eat cookies again, but I felt fantastic and they were delicious.  The three brown sugar Pop-Tart cookies:  yup.  The Oreo, meh, the chocolate chip, good, the monster cookie, excellent.  

This is Lilly.  She's getting old in the chin, but still acts like a puppy.  
Pretzel keeps an eye on things.
Banjo is trouble, so adorable, so energetic.  Look at that face.

Paul with his three friends.  

Our trip out here was uneventful, yet so eventful.  I got my preCheck straightened out, so glad I did, the line for the regular security was so long.  I'm not at the I need a wheelchair stage, but my knees sing me a sad song when I'm on my feet for too long, they lock up and ache.  

We had a tight connection in NY city, so when our captain informed us of issues needing attention before we took off on our first flight, I just had to let it go and relax, not let it get to me.  We ended up landing ten minutes before our next flight boarded, so we scurried through that airport...and phew, made it just in time.  JetBlue, and I'm not getting paid to say this, is a fine airline:  free snacks and drinks, they came through the cabin twice with the drinks, and their coffee is Dunkin, not too bad, with real milk based cream.  They have a snack cabinet, fully stocked, free for the taking.  The seats are roomy, and they have movie screens on each seat back.  I watched The Green Book, and really enjoyed it.  I tried to watch an episode of Chip and Johanna flipping a house, but so many commercials, and so much shiplap.  So I watched Elf, which is adorable and funny.  I had never watched the beginning before, I must have always been in the kitchen making popcorn ha.

Riley picked us up and had cold brews for us, the cinnamon one I like and a chai tea for Camille.  :). Then, homemade ramen noodles with all the fixings for dinner...oh it was good.

We are certainly enjoying our visit.  They are leaving for Austria and Scotland tomorrow, we will be house sitting and doggy sitting.  The forecast is pleasant and gorgeous, sunny and in the nineties or low hundreds, so we're looking forward to many afternoons in the pool.   

I already miss my kids at home, and the grandkids too, but I plan to keep in touch with them while we're here.  If I see any poisonous toads or snakes, I'll make sure to video them for the kids to see, especially Wulf and Achilles.  But of course I hope that doesn't happen.  (You have to check the yard for them before you let the dogs out in the morning!)

Have a really good day!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

we Monday-ed around...

 The day started with a coffee, after a quick kitchen cleanup.  Then, the pool...home, ahh...but not for long!  Miss Charlotte Claire had forgotten her lunch.  Now, in days long past, if one forgot one's lunch, one ate a school lunch and we paid it back.  Or one shared with a friend or sibling.  Mom didn't pack all those younger children into the 15 passenger van at the drop of a hat.  (Once when a child at school was throwing up and had to be picked up RIGHT NOW, I had to get all those younger children buckled in to that big van, and lo and behold, they were playing house, and two of the little boys had sundresses on, because they were being their sisters...I HAD to change them first...)

Anyway.  I had been pondering a trip to Kohl's because I wanted to try on a bra. There was one for sale for $19.99, with 30%off, but I didn't want to order it without trying it on.  So when I saw the text at 11:15 that Char forgot her lunch, lunch is at 11:30, so out the door I went...may as well drive to Kohl's too, with Miss Camille.  (I found two, and splurged!)

Then to Target quick, where I found a pair of shorts in my size for $5.40, and a nice new top for $6.  Cam found some nice jean shorts.  We are leaving for Arizona on Thursday morning, so summery clothes:  nice.  I think it's like 99 degrees there.  We also bought some snacks for the plane (shelled pistachio nuts, low carb bars, trail mix for Cam).  

Then home....ahh, home.  Not for long though.  I had promised Miss Charlotte Claire that we would go to The Parade of Homes, and Monday was the only free night.  So right back out the door we went.  Char and Cam have always had an affinity for housing design and decorating, and have loved going in and checking out the new builds.  

Seven hundred thousand dollars for a house in a housing development?  phew.  But they sure are nice!  Our house is such a big rectangle of practicality, seeing the high ceilings (high heat bills! challenging to paint, or dust, or change the light bulbs!), and the huge walk in closets (that could be another bedroom!), the houses seem almost too ostentatious to me.  I'm also not sure I'm a fan of such open concepts.  The huge kitchen island being right in the living room?  And, all the built-ins:  what if you want to change things, they seem so permanent.  One house had floating stairs, just polished wood beams with no backs, um, I would slip and break my leg.  And since the ceilings are so high, the staircases are so high...we went up and down so many stairs yesterday!  There were features I envied, our lives would have been almost perfect if we had had one of those huge mud rooms with a dog bath!  Imagine not having all your coats and boots and winter gloves right in the entry of your kitchen/dining room!  

Ah well.  We know going to those things makes us hate and despise our horrid awful house.  :)

Dinner...ha, we had planned to put chicken in the crockpot in between outings, but Paul had put beef in there...beef tongue.    ugh.  I didn't even so much as approach that crock pot, much less taste it.  I was a nice mom, and brought the girls through the McDonald's drive through.  I had had some pizza which I shouldn't have had, but the houses had chefs in the kitchens making gourmet food...we didn't sample any at all until we got to the last house, and it was this fantastic pizza, with sausage and veggies...Camille didn't want hers, so yeah, I had two slices...they WERE very small, but sill.  I was not hungry for dinner.  We brought chicken nuggets home for the boys here, and Sonja went out to dinner for her friend's birthday.

Anyway.  This fine morning I might be going to the store quick with Kathryn and her little ones, then Grace is coming over with the kids.  I need to get up and vacuum, and start to think about packing.  I did make a list, but have to figure out what clothes I'm bringing.  I did buy a sun hat yesterday, as Aaron said he got a farmer's tan just being outside for five minutes the other day.  :). 

Well, have a really nice day!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

beach vacation in the finger lakes....


Not too far from here, right on the other side of the tracks...
Evelyn and Camille, and the curried chicken out on the deck...

That sunset on Cayuga Lake!
Miss Charlotte Claire

Char and Evelyn
Miss Cam
Emily in the kayak...look at that clear water!

Mariel was there too.  

We got there on Friday with plenty of time to enjoy the warm sunshine.  Saturday did NOT disappoint:  cool and crisp for morning coffee on the deck, then warm sunshine for the rest of the day.  We went out swimming, and sat in the sun.  Then charcuterie on the deck.  An afternoon swim, we like Lake Hair:)

We headed home this morning after coffee and cleaning up the cabin...but not home, to church.  Then, home...Sam, Grace, Grant, Ruth, and baby Maeve came over.  Evelyn came for a bit, and Margaret, Adrian, Wulf, Tennyson, and baby Blythe came.  Paul and I, and Sonja, Char, Cam, Jon, and his friend Woutar too.  I grilled coneys, and roasted some potatoes.  We had some other leftovers too.  

Everyone is gone now, and it's quiet...

Our weekend was amazing, so relaxing and not very quiet, ha, as we never run out of things to talk about. Maybe tomorrow after the pool I can write a proper blog post.  There are still six of us here in the living room, and I cannot concentrate...:)